Upgraded Power Cables?

Is it worth upgrading the power cable on your audio or AV equipment? This is a question that has triggered countless hours of online debate. On the one hand, why would a designer of high-end audio gear not pay sufficient attention to the power cord? On the other hand, audiophiles feel that any improvement may be worth paying for.

Whichever side of the debate you land, what cannot be denied is that power cords are the latest trend in high-end audiophile upgrades. If you’ve got some time to burn, check out the ongoing discussion in the forum, in a thread by member @Dfndr that elaborates on the efficacy of a power cord when placed between a power conditioner and an audio system.

Some Thoughts on Power Cables

The argument against upgraded, expensive “audiophile” power cords making an audible difference (presuming they are of sufficient gauge for the application, of course) comes down to some basics: There’s typically miles of cable preceding the outlets in your home, including the hundreds of feet of wiring in your walls, that’s all commodity copper right out of Lowes or home Depot. A wall outlet does not magically reset the whole equation to zero. What difference can a few feet of bespoke power cord possibly make? If it’s the same gauge and length as commodity power cord, there’s no reason to believe there’s be any difference at all.

The arguments for upgraded power cords making an audible difference in a system typically rely on subjective testimonials discussing audible differences. And you’ll find many such testimonials from reviewers and audiophile consumers alike, with some high-end audio salespeople absolutely swearing by them. This goes hand-in-hand with the notion that with ultra-high-end gear, everything makes a difference and the pricing is proportionate to the cost of the entire system, with materials, craftsmanship and engineering that justify the expense for such limited production items. After all, if you can afford a $5,000 bottle of whiskey or wine then why sweat a power cord that costs that much?

Where things get tricky is the question of whether a pricey power cord can act as a filter of any kind, or if it is meant to be a “pure” conduit of electrons (path of least resistance). If you use a power conditioner, perhaps you can avoid the “what about everything from the outlet to the power plant” question, but if that’s the case why do you need a cable that’s a filter? Don’t you just need a gauge that can handle the full current draw?

One reason you might “upgrade” a power cord is length. Rather than use an extension, replacing a stock cord with a longer, or shorter, cord to match the installation makes sense. But in this case it still makes no sense to spend thousands of dollars on a product that at most should cost a few dozen dollars.